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Bridging the Physical-Mental Gap: An Empirical Look at the Impact of Mental Illness Stigma on ADA Outcomes

33 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2006  

Wendy Fritzen Hensel

Georgia State University College of Law

Gregory Todd Jones

University of Georgia - Terry College of Business; Georgia State University - Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution; Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Abstract

A plaintiff who seeks redress for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act must first show that he or she is "disabled" within the meaning of the statute. There is no question that all plaintiffs have experienced difficulty in making this showing as a result of several Supreme Court decisions narrowing the definition of "disability."Many scholars have argued that courts do not appreciate the social construction of disability and focus too much attention on medical diagnoses and functional limitations rather than the impact of societal attitudes and prejudices. Some scholars have gone further, however, to theorize that individuals alleging mental impairments face even greater challenges than physically-impaired litigants in this regard, in large part because of the persistent stigma attached to group members by many Americans, including judges. This Article represents one of the first attempts to ascertain empirically whether mentally-impaired litigants experiencing psychiatric disorders are disadvantaged vis-à-vis those with physical impairments in establishing membership in the protected class under the ADA.

Keywords: Americans with Disabilities Act, disability, discrimination, mental illness, stigma

JEL Classification: J71, J78, K31, K41

Suggested Citation

Hensel, Wendy Fritzen and Jones, Gregory Todd, Bridging the Physical-Mental Gap: An Empirical Look at the Impact of Mental Illness Stigma on ADA Outcomes. Tennessee Law Review, Vol. 73, No. 47, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=932680

Wendy Fritzen Hensel (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States
404-982-6803 (Phone)

Gregory Todd Jones

University of Georgia - Terry College of Business ( email )

Brooks Hall
Athens, GA 30602-6254
United States

Georgia State University - Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution ( email )

PO Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn, 53113
Germany

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